Help Me Have a Giant Desktop
July 18, 2006 3:44 PM   Subscribe

I now have an iMac G5 and an iBook G4. I'd like to be able to move items from one desktop to the other, in real time.

I don't mean just firewiring data from one to the other, I mean that thing where you can just pull documents over as though you have one wide screen. For example, moving a Word document all the way over from the G5 to the G4, and vice-versa, as though there is just one desktop between the two computers.

How do I do this? Can it be done? I don't know what it's called, so I don't even know where to look. Thanks!
posted by interrobang to Computers & Internet (18 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: (Both computers have plenty of RAM, and both are running 10.4.7, if that makes any difference.)
posted by interrobang at 3:46 PM on July 18, 2006

Just to clarify, you are looking for something where the mouse cursor (and presumably the mouse) actually was shared between the computers? I can't see any other way this would work.
posted by advil at 3:53 PM on July 18, 2006

Response by poster: Yes, the cursor would move between the two.
posted by interrobang at 3:54 PM on July 18, 2006

Synergy does the mouse-sharing, but according to the FAQ it can't do drag-and-drop.

I used Synergy for a bit between a Mac mini and a Win2K machine, and it was great... until the high traffic between the two computers crashed the Gigabit Ethernet switch for my department.
posted by infinitewindow at 4:00 PM on July 18, 2006

You could use synergy to make your single mouse and keyboard active across both desktops ... It's been discussed around here before. The only way I know to take multiple displays and drag applications across is using Distributed Miltihead X Server ... I'm of the understanding that MacOS X can run X11 applications, but I doubt it would work with native apps. I've used DMX before on linux boxes and needed dedicated network cards between the workstations just to make is usable, and even then the load on the CPU was prohibitive (though it does work suprisingly well considering the complexity). I really like synergy and recommend it to anyone running multiple distinct desktops ... I find a mix of a Multihead X server and n independent machines of varying OSes, all linked via synergy, to be the best use of available hardware. YMMV
posted by crunchyk9 at 4:06 PM on July 18, 2006

In case you want something that works "well enough" and is actually available:

Timbuktu will let you connect to the other computer and view its desktop in a window, and you can drag files into and out of that window.

Apple Remote Desktop seems to have a similar feature.

Neat related concept: Pick-and-Drop.
posted by trevyn at 4:09 PM on July 18, 2006

Ohhhh, mean, like, whole windows? Not files? Like, you want to use your iMac as an external monitor?
posted by trevyn at 4:12 PM on July 18, 2006

Best answer: Hmmm...what if you got a dongle that appeared as a "fake" second monitor on one of the machines, then ran Timbuktu or Remote Desktop set to display the non-existant second monitor on the second machine? There might be cursor lag issues, but I bet it could work.

Or just buy a second monitor and use that.

But yeah, to get seamless remote application execution instead of just screen sharing, you're going to need support for that built into the window manager, which just isn't in OS X.
posted by trevyn at 4:27 PM on July 18, 2006

Response by poster: Wow, this is going to be a lot harder than I thought it would be. I guess that the easiest thing to do is just to use an old monitor. Any tips on doing that? I have access to an ordinary monitor, the type that would have once gone with a Windows 98-type computer.
posted by interrobang at 4:33 PM on July 18, 2006

I'm not totally sure what you're asking, but I have a similar setup and I drag stuff back and forth by enabling sharing on both computers (in the System Prefs control panel). This enables each computer to access each other's public folder.

I keep an alias to each public folder on each desktop and drag the file to the public folder on one machine, and it appears in the folder on the other.

Alternatively, yes, I have used CRT monitors on my iBook. The iBook came with a dongle that attached the monitor cable to the iBook.
posted by astruc at 4:49 PM on July 18, 2006

Response by poster: This is what I want:

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

As you can see, the arrow is travelling between computers, and the little word document has some movement lines, because it's going between the computers, on one, unified desktop.
posted by interrobang at 5:36 PM on July 18, 2006

Best answer: Sounds like what you want is a shared desktop between two computers. I know you can share a desktop between two screens. But sharing desktops between two computers?... that sounds like a long shot.
posted by freakystyley at 6:28 PM on July 18, 2006

Best answer: This is what I want

There is no software that will do what you want, and I suspect there never will be. The requirements, for one thing, are too vague.

Your best bet to accomplish the type of multi-monitor display you want would be to sell one of the computers and purchase a monitor instead.
posted by majick at 6:56 PM on July 18, 2006

Response by poster: Okay, looks like I'm just gonna buy another monitor at some point. Thanks, everyone!
posted by interrobang at 6:57 PM on July 18, 2006

Best answer: I use a combo of synergy and DropCopy to go between my two macs (mini and g5). it doesn't quite do a shared desktop, but the shared mouse, keyboard, and clipboard combined with brainless drag-n-drop file transfer gets it close enough for me....
posted by casconed at 8:23 PM on July 18, 2006

Best answer: Out of the box, the iBook won't support dual monitors - it will only mirror the desktop on the larger screen. I believe there are software workarounds for this, but you'll have to do some searching. I've not worked with an iMac G5, but it might be similarly limited. At the very least you'll need some extra hardware to make multiple monitors possible.

That aside, you can generally use two or more monitors on one computer, or control two computers with the same keyboard and mouse (Teleport is a great app that allows you to do this wirelessly over a network) but you can't drag apps and windows across two independent computers in the manner you describe.

Would be pretty cool if you could though . . .
posted by aladfar at 8:58 PM on July 18, 2006

Best answer: to continue on aladfar's comment - only the very last iMac model (with the Core Duo chips) supports multihead, and no iBook model does. (it's supported in hardware, but not in software.) you can, however, use Screen Spanning Doctor to enable the multihead mode on those machines.
posted by mrg at 7:29 AM on July 19, 2006

Best answer: There is a program that comes close - it's called teleport.

While there's no way you can move something like an open Word window between 2 separate computers, you can drag and drop files between two machines (or cut&paste) with one computer acting as master while the other acts a 'slave'
posted by O9scar at 11:31 PM on August 12, 2006

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